I know that we faculty are an entitled lot. We complain about poorly ventilated classrooms, students who cannot use good grammar, textbooks that don't arrive in time for the beginning of class, colleagues who don't appreciate our work, and merit systems that fail to reward all of our hard work. These actually are stressors that make our days more difficult. I get that, and I admit to engaging in my own fair share of complaining. What I DON'T do is write crazy, angry notes, calling people names and casting aspersions at my colleagues and administrators!
- If you must write a rant email, put it in your drafts file for at least 24 hours, or until you know you have calmed down enough to read it over. You may think twice about sending it.
- If you find yourself addressing the recipient as "Dear fathead/jerk/selfish prick/some other mean name," go back and put in their proper name and/or title.
- Write the letter like you are writing it to someone's kindly grandmother/grandfather. Imagine that they will be offended by harsh words and curses.
- Try sticking with the dictum: Just the facts. Don't embellish and don't presuppose the reasons for other people's actions ("He wanted to punish me, so he gave me a small raise.")
- Make your case--provide evidence, persuade, and lead the reader to your conclusion as the most obvious interpretation.
- Re-read the email and imagine that you are the recipient, not the author. How would you feel reading it? If it makes you angry, it needs to be re-written. (If you can't be dispassionate enough to read it this way, ask a trusted friend to review it.)
- Snide, petty, and mean comes off just as it is intended, and it hurts your cause. (As an administrator, I can tell you that snide, petty, and mean emails don't work for me. They make me want to delete them; they don't make me want to accommodate the sender.) Just adopt a tone of clarity and rationality, and your point will be better received.
So, here's hoping that we faculty can decompress over the summer and come back to campus with a new attitude...or that we can keep our attitudes (and our insults) to ourselves.